Shelley Gardner, the county's director of policy and planning, said the county is looking at three sites for the market: the Thiokol property near Five Points, Silver Lake Park in Bristol Township and Core Creek Park in Middletown. She said township buildings would be considered if officials were interested. Marketing studies, she said, had shown the market must be located on a busy street to prosper.
The sticking point so far has been persuading farmers from Central and Upper Bucks to try their luck selling in a Levittown location.
"Most of our fruit and vegetable farmers have existing farm markets or retail outlets that are functioning well," Scott D. Guiser, the county agricultural agent, wrote in a letter to county officials. "It may be difficult to get enough farmers to support it with locally grown, quality produce."
Guiser noted that the highly successful Doylestown vegetable market recently lost its best grower because his personal roadside stand was doing so well.
Guiser said it might make better financial sense to promote existing farm markets instead of opening a lower county site. Agricultural officials have assembled a complete list of retail farm markets. "This publication could be an excellent vehicle for promoting our existing, successful farm operations," Guiser wrote.
Bucks' rising population has been hard on farmers who have sold their land in increasing numbers to developers. But remaining farmers are turning increasingly from wholesale to retail farms to take advantage of new residents moving into the county.
The None Such Farm in Buckingham opened a retail outlet in the early 1980s and expanded its market four years ago to meet growing demand, employee Joe Walton said. Over the years, a rising retail market has enabled the farm to diversify from one crop, sweet corn, to strawberries, cantaloupes, watermelons, lettuce, green beans, peppers, pumpkins and other vegetables.
None Such even raises its own beef that can be slaughtered by local butchers.
Asked about opening a stand in Lower Bucks, Walton said: "I'm sure it would be a great opportunity." But he said he doubts the operation would move
because business is so good in Central Bucks.
Pennrose Hallowell, chairman of the Bucks County Farmland Preservation Board, said that "more homework needs to be done" before a decision can be made.
"It may be that Bristol is too far south," he said. "I would think there would be an opportunity somewhere well south of Doylestown, maybe the area toward Warminster and Upper Southampton."
County officials are high on the proposal if details can be worked out. ''At first blush, it sounds like an idea that might be very helpful for local farmers," Commissioner Lucille M. Trench said. "It could save people a trip to the Italian Market in Philadelphia."
Trench said she would oppose the project if it were conceived as a sprawling, community flea market.